Sunday, 19 November, 2017

United Kingdom competition watchdog clears Tesco's £3.7bn Booker purchase

Tesco Expected To Announce Turnover Figure Of £1 Billion Per Week Tesco and Booker asked the CMA to fast-track its review in June
Laurie Berry | 14 November, 2017, 14:28

Tesco is the UK's biggest supermarket chain and Booker the largest wholesaler, supplying 5,400 stores operating under the Londis, Premier and Budgens brands as well as restaurants, bars, schools and hospitals.

A panel made up of CMA members found that after the companies "do not compete head-to-head in most of their activities".

In particular, it said that Tesco does not supply goods to the catering sector.

The UK competition regulatory has provisionally cleared Tesco PLC's GBP3.7 billion takeover of food wholesaler and cash-and-carry operator Booker Group PLC.

The CMA said it considered the impact of the merger in every local area where a Tesco and a Booker-supplied shop are both present (over 12,000 shops).

Rivals are concerned the deal could see Booker benefit from improved supplier terms, making it hard for them to compete.

While 50% of Tesco investors must give the deal the green light, the threshold is 75% for Booker shareholders.

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The CMA opened its phase one investigation into the merger in May. The CMA said rival wholesales argued Booker could raise prices to the shops it supplies. However, the CMA also concluded that the wholesale market would remain competitive in the longer term, noting that Booker's share of the United Kingdom grocery wholesaling market - at less than 20% - was not sufficient to justify the longer-term concerns.

This is a provisional decision and the CMA is now inviting further comment and evidence before coming to a final view.

Tesco unveiled the blockbuster deal in January in a bid to become the nation's top food business, slash costs and take on German-owned discount retailers.

The CMA began its investigation in May and launched an in-depth probe in July after Tesco and Booker asked for the inquiry to be fast-tracked.

When Tesco set out its rationale for the merger earlier this year, the company said: "Optimising a joint national distribution system of Tesco and Booker is expected to lead to material benefits, including sharing parts of the fleet and expanding click and collect services".

The regulator is due to report its final findings in December.

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